Saying that I am speechless would be understating it. I, as a matter of fact have so much to say, so much to share, that I don´t even know where to begin! J
So I decided to write and share my experience, my journey of transformation in communicating and working with my dogs. Let me begin with this blog post first and I promise to bring more stories and reports from our mutual learning journey, that has one mission: positive communication and training philosophy.
They say that harnessing a team of enthusiastic huskies is a lot of stress. They say it´s a lot of noise and sometimes even chaos. It is also said that huskies can´t run lose, can´t be trained for obedience, nose work, that huskies don´t guard and protect and that they are not good with other dogs, especially small ones. Let alone cats. Cats and huskis are huge enemies.
I used to believe in some of that, and more importantly, I used to be a part of that belief and problem too. At least partially.
The only thing I always knew deep in my heart was that all this could be different. That it could be reversed, that maybe part of the problem is the way it´s all being looked at. That if we changed our approach and thought out of the box for a moment, that there might be a different angle and actually a solution. I just did not know how.
One thing that is being said, that I definitely agree with, is that with age comes experience and wisdom J
And because my desire to change the way things have been for painfully too long has developed into passion and mission, I started to seek solutions. What for, you are asking? For different way of treating and communicating with our animals. For finding mutual respect and positive ways that make the animals "tick".
„We cannot solve problems with the same way of thinking we used to create them“ – Albert Einstein.
This quote says it all. We can´t punish dogs for something we didn´t teach them. We cannot solve issues started by fear, stress, unsecurity, by showing dominance to our animals. That is not a solution of a problem. That is not gaining of appreciation, understanding and healthy respect. It is just getting rid of a symptom at the given moment, while the problem will come back during the next opportunity.
I did not want a relationship based on my dominance over my dogs and on fear. I wanted to truly understand the dogs, their language. I wanted them to love and respect me not for being the one who brings them food, but rather the one who is a source of fun, motivation, and fairness. And most of all, the one who is willing to meet half way, find a mutual communcation bridge (language) and build our relationship and communication on trust and understanding.
To find solutions I needed to find answers. And to find answers I needed to analyze the problem and figure out what is my desired outcome.
I did not want my dogs to be chasing cats or be agressive with other dogs. I did not want my dogs to dart off frantically, as soon as they would get a chance to get lose. I did not want them to get stressed out about harnessing and hooking up, to fear the medical treatments and panic every time we would clip their nails. I wanted them to listen to me when I say that I don´t like them bullying each other. I desired a happy, healthy, well socialized pack of dogs who love to play with each other, who love the human company, who fearlessly accept whatever we are doing and who run and pull the sled with big smiles on their faces and give us tail wags like thumbs up signs, confirming that we are treating them properly.
And so began my journey to improve.
We went from nice, cozy, practical kennels to expanding the dog housing system by adding insulated dog houses with tethers for the main string dogs. We built dog play yard large enough for around 30 dogs to run happily around. We developed a socializing system for the puppies, which included daily lose walks in the woods since a very young age. Our puppies are always born inside and spend the first weeks of their lives in our house, where they get the chance to socilaize with humans, cats and generally get used to a lot of different noises, closed rooms, different objects, etc.
We let the dogs run and play in large groups to keep in good contact with each other.
We went on to improve the daily „schedule“ and activity program for the canine senior citizens (aka the retired dogs).
It led to happier, healthier dogs, who generally live in good shape to 16 years of age. Dogs who were very well taken care of. It all helped, but somehow it wasn´t enough. I fet that something was missing in the big picture.
Until I started pursuing the idea of a different training method, and a philosophy I somehow deep inside knew that existed. I always believed in some kind of all positive approach to animals and got laughted at many a times whenever I shared my vision. I was told I was very naive. No great results can be reached by all positive methods.
But small results and even the tiniest of successes kept my vision and belief alive.
More and more I would experience a dog, accidentally turned lose, just coming right back on call, the litters of puppies, turned into young dogs, still running lose and obediently in the woods, not just the occassional old dog tolerating the cats.
And as the law of attraction tells us, the more I wished and hoped for something, the more solutions, answers and signs started to show up, to help me realize my visions.
And so one day one such huge solution came. A short term dog handler arrived to our kennel. And co-incidently (although we know it has nothing to do with co-incidence, as there is no such thing) she mentioned she was experienced with clicker training. Luckily, she wasn ´t just experienced with clicker training. She turned out to be naturally gifted in dog training and communication. We began what I hope to be a long term cooperation and most importantly, she became my good friend.
As they say in every good story – the rest is history J
We raised three litters of puppies with this method and philosophy since then. I found out it is EXACTLY the answer to my constant search for improvement. It worked as a chain reaction, or a domino (with an oposite effect – instead of every piece falling, they would rise like building blocks when constructing a house), like thousands of pieces falling into place to create a gorgeous and colorful mozaic.
And it was not about that tiny little plastic box that makes the clicking sound. It is about the entire positive aproach and philosophy of treating, communicating with, training and living with the dogs. Or all animals I should say. Of really finding all those answers to even the smallest problems. It opens the big wide door to a real partnership.
One year passed and the transformation and turn my life with the dogs received is what makes me nearly speechless.
All the things I have always beleived deep down, they are all coming to life now. There is no way of going back.
What a difference it is to treat a deep wound of a very shy dog without holding him in three people and making his heart beat frantically. I learned how to teach the dogs to get rid of fear.
One person can single handedly trim nails with the dog laying on his or her back completely relaxed. All our mainstring dogs sit down before we let them out for a run in the play yard and they all come happily on call back to their houses, walk into their kennels without fuss, more and more of them can run lose around the meadow or in the forest. If I say I don´t like something, they usually stop. They are easy to work and communicate with.
I can take many dogs indoors and they won´t attack the cats. Some of them sleep with the cats sleeping on top of them, or at least snuggled by their curled up tail.
We can walk into the kennel with four hungry, eager young dogs with four dishes, put them aside, wait for the dogs till they sit and then distribute their food easily.
We can give treats and train with the dogs, while other dogs are around, no fighting.
Within four months, we managed to integrate all the „problem“ dogs into the pack so that every one of our 58 dogs can run together in the play yard.
But probably the most significat change I see is the one we did not actually specifically train.
My jaw is still kind of very low from a recent puppy harness breaking.
We decided to make a change in the hook up routine. Not that the old routine didn´t work, it was really good, simple, well organized and easy to pick up by the dogs and any new dog handlers.
But it envolved brining the dogs to the ready chain (stakeout) first, then lining all the harnesses infront of them, getting all things ready for the run (making sure the ATV and lines are in order, packing snacks, water, etc. for the trail and so on), and then start harnessing the dogs before finally hooking them up to the gangline.
The process was well organized, but long, and even more importantly, the dogs got all hyped up and stressed out not just mentally, but also physically from all the jerking and manipulation by their necks.
So in the beginning of this training season, we did something completely new.
We let out the eight dogs of the first team to go. While they were stretching and loosening up while running around, we prepared the harnesses, cart, lines, etc. Then we called the dogs rendomly and harnessed them, then let them go again. Once everyone had been harnessed, we called the leaders and hooked them up first. While they held the line, we hooked up all the experienced dogs, leaving the greenhorns last, two pups on each team. As soon as they were in the team, we were ready to roll. There was about 20 seconds of screaming before I released the brakes and took off. That´s it. End of story. We did a 2km round, stopped about 4 times during the run to praize the kids and let them breathe for a moment, before continuing.
Back home, we left them in the team, I made light soup, brought it infront of the team, distributed it to everyone and as each dog was unharnessed, we turned them lose again to stretch out after the exercise. Calling everyone into their kennels and tethers took couple of minutes. No screaming, no puppies desperately fighting the ready chain, no chewing of harnesses, jumping and knocking off our teath and ripping off our jackets. Just peaceful, calm and really quiet training session. One would never guess those pups were never in harness before.
And we repeated the process with the other two litters that were cliker trained from scratch, with the very same result. The dogs, brought up with all positive philosophy have naturally a lot more self confidence, self control and are a lot more content and focused. They have only positive experience and stress is somehow pushed aside.
By the way, the turning lose before and after hook up is now a daily rutine with all the dogs. The main string athletes benefit from it significantly as they stretch out their muscles and warm up before running, having a chance to empty their bowels, while they releave their body from the harness and work after a run, lowering the lactic acid built up in their muscles.
They benefit not only physically, they are generally more happy, totally content dogs with loads of well used energy, ready to roll again any time.
I know that Kristyna, while reading these lines, is smiling and nodding with agreement, right? J. It is also very much your success and I think you would be proud of the kids!
Those dogs went through such a huge transformation in such a short time. My entire relationship with them just bloomed, and mind you, I always loved and took care of my dogs to my best knowledge and conscious.
There is still loads or even mountains to learn and imporove, but we now know how J
And my final message:
Why not add more love, mutual understanding and respect, more fun and BETTER results to your life with animals?
Everything is possible. Everything is doable. The answer is simple. It is inside you. You need only one thing – the desire to want it. And to take the action, preferably now J You´ll be amazed at how fast things will start moving the right direction! J
I have assembled a list of useful links I recommend to visit in connection to positive training:
All the books I recommend are listed on the right sidebar of my blog www.huskymusher.blogspot.com. If you consider purchasing any of them via UK Amazon, would you please use the links I provide, as I would receive a small comission from Amazon, which would help me tremendously to continue providing all the information and resources for free via my blog. Thank you, I appreciate it deeply!
The list of books includes Clicker Training – Becoming a Super Trainer, Other End of Leash, Don´t Shoot the Dog, Calming Signals, Culture Clash, Wolf Talk, and for all horse lovers The Man Who Listens to Horses and Shy Boy.
ARTICLES (on following websites):
www.tjabuv.blogspot.com (Kristina´s blog, mostly in Czech)
also an article I wrote not long ago:
CLICKER TRAINING COURSES AND TRAINERS:
Free 7 day training course: